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Taking Jesus at His Word: What Jesus Really…
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Taking Jesus at His Word: What Jesus Really Said in the Sermon on the…

by Addison H. Hart

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was disappointed by this book. I am very interested in the Sermon on the Mount, particularly the Beatitudes, which give an excellent guide to a good unfolding of our lives, both inner and outer. Hart reveals a lot of context for the Sermon, but does not bring out the spirituality, that is why I would want to follow Jesus and his sayings.

I might have preferred that Hodges had built a more visible framework for the sermon, so I could see how it all hangs together. Or I might have liked a personal journey into the Sermon, what drew the author himself into it. Or, I cold have appreciated a bit of typology with more references to other scripture and how ideas and precepts proceed into the Sermon on the Mount.

In Hart's commentary on the Lord's Prayer, he suggests the use of 'lapses' where trespasses, debts, or sins are the frequent translations. 'Lapses' is suggestive of the Greek 'hamartia', which is only found in the Lukan version. So, I was left a little unsure. ( )
  vpfluke | Nov 25, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In his new book “Taking Jesus at His Word: What Jesus Really Said in the Sermon on the Mount” author Addison H. Hart takes on a journey through the message of the Sermon on the Mount. Addison Hodges Hart is a retired pastor and college chaplain. He is also the author of “Knowing Darkness: On Skepticism, Melancholy, Friendship, and God” and “The Yoke of Jesus: A School for the Soul in Solitude”.

The book on the Sermon of the mount is more of a meditation on the sermon than a scholarly work of interpretation. It is primarily provides Hart’s own personal reflections and thoughts as he states he has spent years meditating on the Sermon of the Mount as he would listen to the text, think, meditate and then take notes. Hart writes that the Sermon on the Mount is a guide for believers who desire to live their lives with the character of God’s kingdom and righteousness. The author advises that we should take Jesus at his word as Christ’s message was making the kingdom primary.

Even though the book provides areas that provoke thought the books weightiness in impact was diminished to me primarily by some of his interpretive theological ideas concerning sin and hell. I found disturbing that He alludes to Hell as not an everlasting place of torment to not be taken literally but figurative. Another was his questioning of the historicity of the book of Jonah. With these statements peppered with the book I believe he undermines any attempt to take Jesus at his word.

In the end Hart does make the point within the pages of this book to provide interesting thoughts and ideas on how a Christian would actually believe and in turn practice Jesus’ teaches found in the Sermon on the Mount. I found this refreshing as he sheds light on the practical application necessary for the kingdom message of Jesus to be fleshed out in us. ( )
  moses917 | Nov 20, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Hart's book is less than a stellar look at the Sermon on the Mount. By his own admission, his views on the Sermon are shaped by his own personal experience. This hermeneutic of experience then impacts his understanding of the various teaching found in Matthew 5-7.

One of the most disappointing statements he makes about Scripture is found in his opening chapter. He writes, "If one seeks to follow Jesus, then the words of Jesus must stand above church, Bible, and Ten Commandments. Indeed, they stand above the rest of the New Testament, the greatest theologians, the most convincing and elegant theological systems, the creeds and formulas. . ." (p. 11). On the surface, it seems that Hart is calling his readers back to the text, but he makes it clear that he wants us to elevate the "red letters" over the rest of Scripture. In so doing, he denies any authority of divine revelation (2 Tim 3:16-17). However, Jesus does not deal with every aspect of the Christian life, so we are then left to determine what in the Bible is still sufficient for faith and practice.

The book also contains a few other disconcerting ideas, including the denial of hell, a confusing wavering view of divorce and remarriage, and others.

At the end of the day, this book is probably not worth your time if you come from an evangelical perspective that affirms the authority and inspiration of the entire Bible and you are seeking a hermeneutically sound approach to the Sermon on the Mount. ( )
  Lenow | Jul 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Addison Hodges book is not a scholarly work but rather a meditation on the sermon on the mount. Hodge's own reflections and thoughts as well as some scholarly concepts about the teaching of Jesus combine to form an interesting individuals take on the longest of Jesus teachings. Although not intended for research or a scholarly look into the sermon on the mount, which Hodges never claims to do, the book does provide interesting thoughts and concepts on how a person actually believes and practices Jesus' teachings. 3/5 stars. ( )
  mms04b | Jun 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Addison Hodges Hart has written a book entitled, Taking Jesus at His Word: What Jesus Really Said in the Sermon on the Mount. I received this book in the mail the week I was preparing to summarize Jesus’ message of the Sermon in a sermon the coming Sunday. Needless to say, I was excited by the timing! The first thing I did was dive into the back to see his list of references. I wanted to see who Hart was going to interact with in his study. But there was no works cited. I then flipped through the book and found no footnotes or endnote either. So, I turned to the first chapter and was a bit dismayed as Hart declared that would be no notes or interactions with any other sources, as he intended to let this be a meditation text, rather than an exposition or engaging in scholarly exegesis. This led me to the appendices of the book (I love appendices!). And there I was pleasantly surprised.

Hart affirms that the word of Christ in the Sermon are reliable and worthy of our reading and learning from that we should exclude non-canonical sayings (pp 142-144). He also affirms that there can be no distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith—they are one and the same (pg 140). At the same time, he is not so willing to extend a real historical setting to every part of the Gospels. Instead, he prefers to believe that the writers began with Jesus’ words and crafted a scenario in which to fit them (pg 152). He even goes so far as to say that John spiritualizes Jesus’ words so that they are three to four steps away from the original sayings (pp 152-154).

Why do mention these things? I mention them because these things help shape the content of the book in profound ways. Hart, in my opinion, vacillates between very good comments and applications of the words of Jesus and completely impossible understandings of Jesus’ words. For example, when Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt 5:21-22), the author is right to point Christians back to these verses and point out how easily annoyed we get with people, often because of our own agendas and preferences, rather than anything of substance. He is right to commend us to be quick at reconciling with our brothers and sisters (pg 49). Yet, Hart can also read Jesus saying “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied” (5:6), and take it to mean people hungering for social justice (pg 27). He believes Jesus is saying ‘Don’t fret about seeing justice in this life and forcefully fight against it because, it only leads to sin. Let God take care of it.’ Instead, we should fight with “gentleness and social action” and thus we will be satisfied. Is this really what Jesus is talking about? Is this what he means he speaks of righteousness elsewhere in the sermon (e.g., 5:20)? I cannot see that. Furthermore, hell is reduced not to eternal judgment on sinners but the isolating, devastating , and dehumanizing effects our own hatred bring on our heads (pp 46-48). In Hart’s thinking, the imagery of gehenna—the ever-burning trash dump—becomes a vision of the wasted life, not eternal destruction. It’s not literal, but poetic, standing for something we wish to avoid.”

In the end, Hart’s book is a mixed bag of good insight and tragic missteps. From my perspective, he fails his own calling to listen and be hanged by the words of Jesus (pp 7-10), allowing his own ideas about morality and spirituality to bleed back into the pages of the Sermon so that when he is looking for Jesus, he finds more of himself than the Son of God.

*Note: I received this book free for review, which has not affected the content of this review. ( )
  johnbotkin | Apr 26, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802866913, Paperback)

Blessed are the poor in spirit. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. You cannot serve God and mammon. Judge not, that you be not judged. Though such sayings from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount are very familiar, many people -- including Christians! -- struggle to fully understand and follow them. For those who are brave enough to reconsider what Jesus really said, Addison Hodges Hart offers Taking Jesus at His Word.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:32 -0400)

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